Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Bots and Hackers

"The next wave of robots may resemble Transformers. Unlike domestic Rosie bots, self-reconfiguring robots have to morph into different shapes to best fit the terrain, environment and task. Self-reconfigurable robots can change their external shape without human assistance. Such a robot could self-organize as a snake shape to slither through a narrow tunnel, reconfigure as a multi-legged walker to trudge across rough terrain (such as a lunar surface), and then change shape again to climb stairs and enter a building."

"It took four years, 331,000 participants and a difficult legal case, but the relentless efforts of Distributed.net and its supporters have finally broken a 64-bit encryption key developed by RSA Data Securities. When Distributed.net set up shop in 1997 to test various forms of encryption by essentially breaking through them, organizers figured it could take 100 years to uncover the RC5-64 sequence due to limited computer power and the fact that so many people would have to participate in the effort. There was so much data to analyze for the project that when the key was eventually found in mid-September, McNett and his crew of participants around the world initially overlooked the winning entry. It read: "The unknown message is: Some things are better left unread." The man who discovered the secret message used a 450-MHz Pentium II to find the solution. A resident of Tokyo, Japan, he has asked to remain anonymous."

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